Dir: Asgar Farhardi
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem
(Spain, 15, 2hrs 12 mins)
A slow-burning Spanish drama that showcases some fine acting to paper over plot holes. Penelope Cruz plays Laura, returning home to her native Spain from Argentina, where she lives with her job-seeking husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin), for a family wedding with children in tow.
There she reconnects with old flame and rugged wine maker Paco (an excellent Javier Bardem). Their history, having been lovers years ago before Cruz left for pastures anew, left Paco heartbroken.
Cruz’s daughter Irene (Carla Campra) is rebellious, drinking too much and falling in with a local boy with whom she escapes to a bell tower during the wedding before passing out and disappearing during the following festivities. The search for Irene re-opens wounds from the past, as it becomes apparent that she has been kidnapped for nefarious ends. Newspaper clippings about a previous girl’s disappearance years ago are left as an enigmatic clue as to who may be behind this abduction.
What follows is a more detailed study of Cruz and Bardem’s relationship and the tensions that exist within a small-town community, along with some logic loopholes. Bardem is willing to sacrifice his business and his marriage to get his ex-girlfriend’s daughter back, whilst Cruz goes from apparent contentment to utter despair. Darin is also splendid as Cruz’s buttoned-down husband, willing to trust in a higher power to get Irene back.
Iranian director Farhadi had to work under strict guidelines within his native country for his previous films, the Oscar-winning A Separation and the excellent The Salesman. Although Everybody Knows is not as powerful it is still a great character study. Cruz, Darin and Bardem excel as skeletons come out of the closets under the Spanish sunshine. Its initially slow-moving pace accelerates after the kidnap, the town unravelling under the weight of suspicion. A solid drama with strong performances, if an at times suspect and melodramatic script.
words Keiron Self
Opens March 8